By Roxanne Dent
Chapter Three: “A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed”
I took a cab to 14th Street and decided to walk the rest of the way home. I wished I’d gotten a better look at the woman who was in such a hurry. I only had Harry Barnes’ word he was there to prove the medium was a fake. For all I knew, he might be the murderer. I hoped he wasn’t. I appreciated his not holding a grudge. And if he read me so easily, his talent could prove helpful with suspects.
I’m seldom jumpy, but several times, on the way home I turned around sure someone was tailing me. There were plenty of people on the street, but no one looked particularly suspicious. I chalked it up to discovering my first corpse.
As soon as I reached home, I called my friend, Gil Brody. As a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was often out infiltrating the criminal underworld, Russian spies and anarchists. Today, I got lucky. He was in and agreed to meet me with what he could dig up on Harry Barnes. He said he’d pick me up at six and take me to an early dinner at Arturo’s.
Harry bragged he had a few friends on the force. I had Gil.
When my mother was arrested, Gil was a lowly sergeant in the police force and the only one with a college education. That ticked off a lot of his fellow cops. He suggested they should listen to what Harry had to say. When he tried to get them to look more closely at Lefty O’Bannon, they ignored him. Disgusted, he quit and applied to the FBI.
J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the FBI’s 6th Director in 1924. He made sweeping changes in the department. Hoover recognized Gil’s potential and hired him on the spot. Gil and I remained in contact.
I decided to open Madame Roskovich’s date book before meeting him. She wrote initials next to the times. The initial W appeared at least once a week. No last name. The letter T was written in on the day she died. IL appeared once with a question mark. That gave me a jolt, but I was sure Ivy would have told me if she was a client of the medium. MB first appeared three weeks ago, the initial B next to it, what resembled a coolie’s hat, and wavy lines. Did Mavis tell her she was looking to contact her drug addicted son who drowned, when she set up the appointment? Most people even believers, neglected to mention details. They wanted to be convinced of the veracity of the medium. From what Ivy told me, Mavis would demand proof. That meant Madame Roskovich knew ahead of time, what to say to hook her client.
I wasn’t surprised there was someone on the inside who fed the medium information that made Mavis a believer. I decided to consult with Ivy and went upstairs.
When I knocked, I heard rustling inside.
“Open up, Ivy. It’s me.”
The door was flung open. Ivy ducked into the hall and gave a creditable imitation of someone on the lam.
She pulled me inside, shut and bolted the door.
“I was followed to the theater,” she said. Two big Mulligans. They waited in the back. When I left, they tailed me. I couldn’t shake them.”
“They didn’t stop you?”
“No.” Ivy’s face was white and pinched. She wrung her hands like a heroine in a penny dreadful. Did you find out who killed Mavis?”
“Madame Roskovich was murdered before I could speak with her.”
Ivy looked like she was about to faint. I grabbed her and shook. “I believe you’re innocent. I’m going to prove it. Now help me.”
Ivy blinked. To her credit, she stiffened her spine and focused. “Was she poisoned?”
“Shot, and it looks as if it was someone she knew. I looked over her datebook. Know anyone with the initial T. She was supposed to meet them the day she was murdered.”
Someone on the inside, told Madame Roskovich all about Billy. Could it be one of the servants?”
“No idea.” She collapsed into a chair. “I need a fag. My purse is in the closet.”
I found the one she had with her that morning and brought it to her. She removed a cigarette and lit up.
“Madame Roskovich’s murder might not have anything to do with Mavis,” she said, a frown between her pretty brows. “Mavis had dozens of clients.”
“I believe the murders are connected. Two women who knew each other were murdered in less than 48 hours. I call that suspicious.”
“Check with the biddies on the charities. They saw her at least once a week.”
“Know anyone with the initial W?”
“Uncle Willkie, but he’s been dead for donkey’s years.”
What about Billy’s girl friend?”
“Clara? Why would she kill Mavis who thought she was the bee’s knees. She wanted her to marry Billy.”
“Was Clara one of Madame Roskovich’s clients?” I asked.
“The mouse might have consulted a medium. I can’t picture it, but why kill her?”
“Maybe she gave her some information she didn’t like. When is Mavis’ funeral?”
“Her body will be released to the Morris Funeral Home tomorrow.”
“So soon? I thought they needed more time to work out what poison was used.”
“Chester said the medical examiner sent off the stuff to be tested but he was certain it was arsenic.” Ivy grimaced. I didn’t like Mavis, but I wouldn’t wish her to die from arsenic poisoning. Say you’ll come for moral support.”
“Absolutely. I want to see who shows up. By the way, do you know anyone who wears Evening in Paris?”
“Lots of girls at the theater. Too sweet for me. Why?”
“A girl raced out of Madame Roskovich’s house, as I was going in. I didn’t get a good look at her face. She was drenched with the scent. She might be a client who saw the body. Panicked, she ran. Or, she’s the killer.”
“Another thing. I’d expect Madame Roskovich to employ at least one servant. The apartment was empty.”
“She might have given the poor thing a day off. Some clients want absolute privacy.” Ivy took a drag on her cigarette and didn’t meet my gaze.
I was suspicious. “Ivy, have you ever consulted Madame Roskovich?”
She shrugged and stood up. “Once or twice.”
“When was the last time?”
“A day or two before Mavis died. I was desperate, Josie. I had the audition and I needed to know if I had a shot.”
“What was the name of her maid?”
“Paula, or Olga, or something like that. And just so you know, she wasn’t an assistant who hid in a secret panel in the wall and made noises. Madame Roskovich was truly gifted. She knew all about me.”
“Yes, really. The room filled up with fog. I could barely see. Madame R. spoke in my mother’s voice. She told me she was happy and things about my childhood, I’d completely forgotten.”
“A puppy I had whose name was Brewster. How I should wear blue to auditions. It was my lucky color. How talented I was. She told me my mother reunited with my father and she was happy. She wished she could be there for me. I cried a little. Before she returned to the spirit world, she told me I was going to be a big star. Isn’t that amazing?”
“You can wipe that smirk off your face right now, Josie Turner. I heard this morning, I got the part. And Madame Roskovich told me something else that might be of interest to you.”
“She said a close friend of mine with dark hair, who lived in my building, would meet a tall foreigner, whose heart is sad. He would sweep her off her feet.”
I shivered. Harry came to mind. I told myself not to be a fool. There were several women in the building with dark hair. If Ivy blabbed about me, it explained not only the medium’s vague prediction, but why she agreed to see me on such short notice. No doubt, if Madame Roskovich hadn’t been murdered, she would have rattled off more personal information given to her by an unsuspecting Ivy that was meant to hook me. A nice racket.
Ivy paced, her face flushed.
“You’ll uncover the murderer. I know it. And I’ve got the understudy. That calls for a celebration. Let’s go out for cocktails. If I’m going to be arrested, I might as well be blotto.”
“I have a date.”
Ivy stopped pacing. “Seriously? Who with?”
“An old friend.”
“An old friend! How boring. Josie Turner, how long has it been since you were kissed? And I mean kissed so your whole body tingled, and you could barely breathe.”
“None of your beeswax,” I said, as I headed to the door.
“Three months ago. Jake the Snake,” she called out. You’re too attractive to only date friends and die an old maid.”
“Don’t worry about me. And if you go out, stick to the legit clubs. Keep away from coffin varnish and panther piss,” I laughed as I left.
Roxanne Dent lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and has sold nine novels and dozens of short stories in a variety of genres to anthologies, including Paranormal Fantasy, Regency, Mystery, Horror, Middle Grade and YA. Her fantasy, The Day the Demons Came, recently sold to the anthology, In the Shadow of the Mountain, Elder Gods Publishing. And My Zombie Valentine, sold to Blood Red Shadows, Night to Dawn, and will be out around Valentine’s Day. She has also co-authored short stories and plays with her sister, Karen Dent. Their plays Young at Heart and Monkey Girl Blues, were put on at the Firehouse Theater in Newburyport.